Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - One in Eleven Million

Name: Lillian ...
From: Orient, OH
School: Westfall High School
Votes: 0 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - One in Eleven Million

One in Eleven Million

Running
Head: One in Eleven Million 1

One
in Eleven Million

Lillian
Fox

Westfall
High School

One
in Eleven Million

The
smell of alcohol triggers a deep memory. It’s hidden in a part of my
soul that I keep locked away in Pandora’s box, careful not to unleash
the nightmares. I have managed to keep it down and live as if there’s
nothing wrong, but there is only one lock left and a key is
constantly threatening to turn. The scary thing is: I am not alone. I
am one in 11 million American children who have learned to balance on
the tightrope between calm and chaos. We are the pawns played by
family members in a last-ditch attempt to keep the family in one
piece, becoming familiar with addiction, as he destroys, manipulates,
and lies. We stay quiet as our older siblings live vicariously
through us, and as we succeed it reminds our mothers that they are
not at fault. Our memories are tainted and there are years we will
not get back. It disturbs me to think that I could possibly be
nothing more than the daughter of an alcoholic.

Experiences
vary from child to child, but what stays consistent is that we are
forced into roles far ahead of our paygrade and past-job experiences.
As I grew up, I was never told I had to be strong nor was I told that
I was responsible for my family in any capacity, but the nights
falling asleep to raging thunder curled up next to my older
sister–as
I
would comfort
her–speaks
multitudes for the opposition. I became the shoulder to cry on and I
became the counselor offering words of wisdom to family, as well as
friends, from my “years” of experience. Even today I catch myself
debating whether or not to be the ‘Mom’ friend and remind a
classmate that their rebellious, possibly self-destructive, choices
will not bring them happiness. How dare I say anything! I’m just as
old as they are, how much more can I truly know? I want to express to
them my fear that they could get hurt, or addicted. People often
forget that addiction has many associates, and mental illness is his
best friend. I am no stranger to suicidal depression, anxiety, and
fear. Many of us have fought these opponents personally, struggling
to make sense of our families and the choices they’ve made. I’ve
watched as the people I love came close to the edge. I could spend
all-day explaining to my classmates how I know what could happen and
how much I want to keep them safe, but the conversation often seems
uncomfortable and uncalled for, so against every being in my body I
dismiss it. I quietly struggle with my choice as I watch my
classmates make the mistakes my family made. The relationships that
have been destroyed because of addiction.

I
watched every event from the background, which has made it difficult
for me to speak up now. During the fights and the mental breakdowns I
was there listening, I never felt that it was my turn to feel. My
listening led me to be more understanding than my family ever knew. I
understood why it was so hard for my mother to leave her nearly
twenty-year abusive relationship, I understood why my sister believed
pain was better than losing her father, and I understood why my
family struggled to overcome their fear and anger. If there was
nothing for me to listen to I opted to sneak away, lost within the
vastness of my growing mind. I had spent my time watching, analyzing,
figuring out what makes people tick, and ‘connecting the dots’ to
the great ‘whys’ of life. I never solved Fermat’s Theorem, but
I did find comfort within my own knowledge. However, my introverted
nature affected the way my family understood me. A recurring instance
was in how I handled anger. I became an expert at keeping all
emotions inside. They were shaken pop bottle. The bubbles would
intensify and intensify, fizzing from the carbonation until the cap
finally released from the pressure and allowed the contents to shower
onto the surroundings in a sticky chaotic. If the pressure was never
released, it would be incredibly unlikely that you would even see me
flinch. My family made plenty of assumptions about my beliefs and
feelings towards my father, but regardless of my willingness to
divulge information they seldom asked me any questions. They never
understood what I felt, or why I became quiet in the first place.
They never ask the child.

These
questions are incredibly important. Astounding amounts
of effort go into ensuring that the relationship between the child
and the seperated parent stays intact, but no one ever asks the child
what they believe should be done. Therein lies one of the biggest
mistakes in divorce cases. I do understand not every child is an
appropriate age to decide what is best for them, but if there is no
true relationship between the child and the parent they are leaving
than they shouldn’t be forced to make one. My mother left a
twenty-year abusive relationship, the reason she so long is because
she wanted to keep my father close to my sisters and I. She wanted us
to have a father, she wanted our childhoods to resemble something
mundane, but that couldn’t happen. The adults in these situations
never understand what the child is thinking, yet we are spoken for
everyday. For years, I had been growing estranged from my father, I
didn’t want to suddenly be forced to have a relationship with him.
During a period after the divorce court had decided that every other
weekend my father would have us for the day, I soon became a very
talented actress. My father believed me to be a child, innocent and
oblivious to everything that he had done, but I was not that naive.
Every meeting with my father was awkward and forced, we were
strangers because he had buzzed through so much of my life. The worst
part was being expected to say ‘I love you’. Trading these words
with my father tastes bitter in my mouth. How can anyone be expected
to love someone they don’t know? I panicked over any thought of my
father winning custody, I longed for the day I turned eighteen.

Most
teens are desperate to finally reach the ‘age of adulthood’,
ready to be free to partying and rebel in whatever manner they
please. No longer having to live under the thumb of their parents. My
liberation was not characterized by this excitement but instead by
desperation. I never have understood why being a new adult means
going against your better judgement for ‘fun’. I’ve had to
learn quickly to act mature, and be able to keep myself alive and the
household together. I didn’t have the chance to rebel, but I don’t
want it. The possible consequences terrify me, and I can’t stand
that pesky smell of alcohol. I counted down the days until I was free
from the claws of ‘custody’. I had spent so many years practicing
to be an adult, I felt ready.

I
am one in 11 million children, but not all have been as lucky as I
have. My blessings come in the form of opportunities to grow,
reminders that I am loved, and the fact that my only scars on the
inside. Looking back on my childhood I am not angry. I do hope that
one day I can have a relationship with my father, as many of us
children do, but for now I cannot love and forgive the addict.
However, it does hurt me to think that he may destroy himself before
I ever get the chance. As I move into adulthood I look forward to
facing my
own
challenges
brought on by my
own
mistakes. I’ve worked to speak up more often, knowing that my words
could impact a life. I look forward to being able to listen to those
I meet, and connect with them on a deeper level of understanding. I
hope to make the voices of the children heard, I know how impactful
it could truly be.

References

Nepomnyaschy,
L., Magnuson, K., & Berger, L. M. (2012, March 1). Child Support
and Young Childrens Development. Retrieved from
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3565425/


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